The capacity for aerial maneuvering shaped the evolution of flying animals. Here we evaluate consequences of aviaian morphology for aerial performance1,2 by quantifying static stability and control effectiveness of physical models3 for numerous taxa sampled from within the lineage leading to birds (Paraves4,5). Results of aerodynamic testing are mapped phylogenetically6-10 to examine how maneuvering characteristics correlate with tail shortening, fore- and hindwing elaboration, and other morphological features11. In the evolution of the Paraves we observe shifts from static stability to inherently unstable aerial planforms; control effectiveness also migrated from tails to the forewings. These shifts suggest that some degree of aerodynamic control and and capacity for manoevering preceded the evolution of strong power stroke. The timing of shifts also suggests some features normally considered in light of development of a power stroke may play important roles in control.